Growing up, we had one Chinese restaurant in town, run by a very lovely Chinese Buddhist family. I loved their fried rice. I loved it so much that I stopped at the restaurant to pick up rice even before dropping off my bag at home, when coming home for a visit from college. I loved it so much that my mother remarked upon it to the owner, and he shared with her the process he uses to make rice, so I could make it even while away at school.
These days, it’s still a big favorite at our house. It’s practically a one-pot meal, but it’s also fun to add homemade egg rolls or pot-stickers, or a beef-broccoli stir-fry, or cashew chicken, or some other tasty homemade delight. But, here’s the process for really lovely fried rice:
Rule 1: Use Leftover Rice.
Rice that has been freshly steamed is great as sticky rice, so toss that under your favorite stir fry if you want, but for fried rice, you don’t want a gummy mess. You want individual rice grains, so make extra steamed rice a day or two before. It’s also really nice to cook your rice with some broth, so it has a good flavor all on its own, but that’s not vital. And use real rice, not “Minute” rice. It makes a difference.
Rule 2: Prep Before You Start.
Most Asian recipes work best if you set out your ingredients and prep them before you start heating the pan, and this one is no exception. It takes a few minutes, but it’s worthwhile.
Rule 3: There Are No Other Rules.
With the first two rules down, that’s it. The rest is entirely up to you as to quantity and precise mix.
The Ingredients, for my favorite combination:
Bits of leftover ham, in very small shreds or tiny dices; don’t use honey ham. Honey ham is a minor abomination. If you’re meat-free, just skip the ham.
Grated raw carrot (grate it on the big setting)
Frozen petite peas
Finely minced green onion
Heat a heavy, broad pan over medium-high. Drizzle in some sesame oil, and scramble up one or two eggs until dry-cooked (not gooshy). Set them aside on a plate for a bit.
Drizzle more sesame oil, and give the ham (if you’re using it), carrots and celery a very light stir-fry, just to soften them a tad and get some of the moisture out (to keep them from gumming thing up later.) Set them aside on top of the eggs.
Drizzle a bit more sesame oil, and dump in your rice. Let it sit and start heating through, then toss/turn it frequently, to get it hot. Drizzle on some soy sauce, and keep tossing. You don’t want to do more than color the rice, really, and adding too much at once will get things bogged down and gross. You can always add a bit more later.
You’re nearly done: once the rice is very hot and fragrant, and possibly even browning just a tad on the bottom in bits, toss the egg and veggies back in, and throw in a handful of frozen peas. Toss everything well (which also lets the peas defrost and heat through without going mushy).
Finish it off with a liberal sprinkle of finely-sliced green onion… it really does make a flavor difference!
And no, I have no current pictures. Every time I make it, it gets snarfed before I can get out the camera. Sometimes, the kids get a few spoonsful, too.